Mora Rockwood, originally from Cuba, is congratulated as a new citizen. Previously a resident of Toledo, Rokwood now lives in Louisville, Ky. At rear left is the Honorable Federal Magistrate James Knepp.
ARCHBOLD, Ohio — In the dappled shade of maple trees on the Village Green, 7-year-old Omar Soltan slipped off the wooden bench, darted across the aisle, and planted a congratulatory kiss on his mother’s cheek.
Moments later, Nermeen Ibrahim Elfakhrany of Toledo beamed with unbridled joy as she became an American citizen. She embraced her husband, Mohamed Soltan, as their son Aly Soltan, 10, unfurled a flag and Omar tugged on his U.S.A. ballcap.
“I’m so excited. I am so happy,” she said.
Emotions soared on eagle’s wings during a patriotic program at Sauder Village Monday as 56 people stood, raised their right hands, and took oaths of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
U.S. District Court Magistrate James Knepp II, who presided over the ceremony, remarked on the symbolism of the historical setting at Sauder Village where the past is preserved and celebrated.
“In this historical setting, we are reminded of the American dream,” Magistrate Knepp said, noting the dream of Erie Sauder, who as a young farm boy combined his love of machinery with a vision of manufacturing to found Sauder Woodworking, one of the world’s largest manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture. Sauder Village, situated in Archbold in Fulton County, and Ohio’s largest living history destination, was Erie’s dream as well.
Mr. Sauder’s great-grandson, Chandler Tinsman of Archbold, who is an Eagle Scout, led the Pledge of Allegiance during the ceremony.
Magistrate Knepp told the audience that the Fourth of July is a uniquely American holiday. “A day when we celebrate our independence, and honor the unthinkable bravery and sacrifice of our founding fathers setting in motion what has become the greatest nation the world has ever known,” he said.
America’s newest citizens come from the four corners of the globe, he said. “As children you learned different languages. You ate different foods. You might practice different religions. You live in different places. But now, you are all citizens of the United States. We are all Americans. Together we stand as one people defined not by blood or race or tribe or wealth, but by the fact of citizenship.”
Evelyn Margaret Mahas said she sought citizenship because she wants to cast her ballot on Election Day.
“I really wanted to be able to vote. And if I have kids, I will be certain of their safety,” said Mrs. Mahas, a music therapist. The 26-year-old Millbury, Ohio, resident, who hails from Canada, has lived in America since she was 12 years old.
Among those applauding and cheering as Mrs. Mahas became an American citizen were Bill and Joyce Draeger who live near Lindsey, Ohio. “We just love her. They are a wonderful family,” said Mr. Draeger. Mrs. Mahas’ husband, Tom, is youth pastor at Bethel United Brethren Church near Elmore, Ohio.
During the ceremony, Soraia Taha, who became an American citizen in 1989, sat just behind her mother, Ciria Assi Taha, who was among the 56 people to take the citizenship oath. “I helped my Dad when he became an American citizen a few years ago and now I have helped my Mom,” said Ms. Taha who came to America as an exchange student in 1979, and fell in love with the country and its people.
“There is nothing like being an American,” Ms. Taha continued. “Neighbors help each other. Americans are caring and loving.”
When her parents came to visit her, “they fell in love with America, too,” Ms. Taha said. Her parents live with her in West Toledo.
Mrs. Taha, who was born in Brazil, said the United States is unlike any other country on Earth, and she was pleased to become an American on the Fourth of July. “It’s very emotional for me and I am very proud,” she said.
Guest speaker Conrado Jensen, a naturalized citizen from Argentina and resident of Wauseonsaid the ceremony signifies a milestone.
“You may or may not have realized, but this country has already offered you what symbolizes a cornerstone of this society. And that is the freedom to choose. You see, becoming a citizen was presented as an option that you could have rejected if you so desired. The option was presented to you and you exercised that choice. Nobody said, though, that going through the process of becoming a citizen was going to be an easy task. But you are becoming a citizen out of your own free will,” he said.
Mr. Jensen noted American citizens have responsibilities, such as to become law-abiding, productive citizens of society and “to make a contribution, no matter how big or small, to the betterment of this country that has opened its doors to us.”
Those naturalized and their countries of origin were:
Brazil — Ciria Assi Taha.
Canada — Giovanni Mario Bignoli, Zeinab Mohamad Elsmaili, Margaret Pamela Huggins, Evelyn Margaret Mahas, Janette Mary Milne, Robert Ian Milne, and Wendy Lynn Rodgers.
Cuba — Taimy Mora Rockwood.
Egypt — Nermeen Ibrahim Elfakhrany, Fadi Emad Gabriel, Joseph Philip Gabriel, Marli Emad Gabriel, and Verena Marie Gabriel.
Ethiopia — Elizabeth Woldegebriel Woldegiorgies.
Germany — Elisabeth Yospur Daniel.
Ghana — Richard Owusu Acheampong.
Guatemala — Ledy Del Carmen Escobar Rodriguez.
Guyana — Errol Fitzgerald Bailey, and Yonette Bernadette Bailey.
Haiti — Farah Stephanie Aurelien, and Gina Jean Paul.
Hong Kong — Ray Wai Ng.
India — Satinder Singh Ghotra, Payal Viral Patel, and Anand Manilal Shah.
Jamaica — Sandra Marleen McIntosh, and Karalyn Dislandice Mullings.
Jordan — Subhi Mohammad Ali Hamdallah, and Norman Omar Jadalla.
Laos — Saeng Phonchone.
Lebanon — Evelyne Youssef Antypas, and Hassan Aref Younes El Itawi.
Liberia — Baendu Zoe Williams.
Mexico — Ovidio Bocanegra, Salvador Gonzalez, Jorge Enrique Aguilera Hernandez, Jesus Jose Lopez, Maria Teresa Lopez, and Juan Manuel Patino.
Nicaragua — Adrian Victor Lovo, Heyzel Maricela Lovo, and Heyla Natalia Sanchez.
Nigeria — Charles Muofunanya Obinwa.
People’s Republic of China — Han Chen, Cai Yu Feng, Xiaodi Hu, Qiu Xia Zhang, and Jianhong Zou.
Philippines — Maricel Macapayag Morse, and Cherry Rose Ramos Rosales.
Tunisia — Juliano A Aziza.
Turkey — Goksun Ozyurt.
United Kingdom — Colin James Stewart, and Mark Andrew Warman.
Venezuela — Cesar Augusto Perez Bolivar.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.